|About the Author: Chani Markel is a person who stutters, school-based speech-language pathologist, and certified children’s yoga instructor, currently living in Manhattan. She is very involved with the NYC self-help community and regularly attends and presents at National Stuttering Association annual conferences. She enjoys combining her passions for yoga, mindfulness and creative writing into speech-language pathology.|
Growing up as a young child who stutters, I never believed that one day I would have the courage to speak openly about my stuttering. Thankfully, as I have progressed through my stuttering journey, my perspectives about stuttering have drastically changed. After receiving successful speech therapy as a teenager and becoming involved in the stuttering community as a young adult, I am much more comfortable speaking my mind and letting my stutter be heard.
Speaking your mind can be frightening for a person who stutters – or anybody going through a challenge that can be as overt or visible as stuttering- because it can feel so vulnerable. For me, stuttering in front of co-workers or friends can feel like baring a part of my soul to my listeners. I like to think that by speaking my mind, I am sharing my unique spirit with the world. As both a person who stutters (PWS) and a school-based speech-language pathologist (SLP), here is my “stuttering manifesto” if you would, my five essential principles to speaking my mind:
- Show up. I know that when I speak, I take the risk of stuttering, and that is OK. I am willing to take that risk to share my truth.
- I give myself permission to stutter. I will say the words that I want to say. I will not substitute tricky or feared words for words that are easier to say. I will not delay my words for a time when I feel more fluent. As someone who was covert for most of my middle and high school years, I know this is way easier said than done. For me, every word that I give myself permission to say, rather than avoid or escape from my stuttering, is a mini success to be celebrated. I also give myself permission to choose to use a speaking strategy or speak in a way that is easier or less struggled. I give myself permission to choose the way that I want to speak because it is my right to do so.
- My voice and my opinions matter, even if I stutter. Stuttered or not, what I have to say has inherent value. I can speak my mind about topics that I am passionate about and convey my thoughts effectively to my listeners, regardless of my fluency.
- As an SLP, I will speak my mind to advocate for my students, their families and the people in my fellow stuttering community. I will speak my mind on behalf of those who may be afraid or unsure of how to do so. I will speak up for my clients who may be suffering, disadvantaged or not have the same opportunities to express themselves. Educating the public about stuttering, debunking common myths about speech and language disorders and advocating for those who may not know how to advocate for themselves was part of my drive for becoming an SLP. It is just as important, if not more so, than providing evaluations and treatment.
- My mission is to help children learn to speak their mind. My ultimate goal as an SLP,both for kids who stutter, as well as for all of my students, is to help them learn to find their voices. I will always make my speech therapy room a place where students feel comfortable sharing their thoughts without the fear of being judged. Whether it is a five-year-old who is upset about having to negotiate with a classmate about where to sit during read-aloud, or a group of seventh graders who are anxious about taking state exams, I often begin my speech therapy sessions by having my students each take a turn to talk about what is on their mind. Sometimes we stop and discuss the issues they address, other times I simply acknowledge their feelings and move on to my daily objectives, but I ensure that all of my students feel heard.
Following these principles can be challenging. I am honest with myself that some days, stuttering may feel like a burden that I would rather not carry. However, by striving to live by this “stuttering manifesto,” I pledge that each day I will not let my stutter hold me back from speaking my mind. Speak your mind, bare your soul, share your spirit.
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